Marion de Lorme by Victor Hugo

Persons in the Drama

Marion de Lorme

Didier

Louis XIII.

The Marquis de Saverny

The Marquis de Nangis

The Comte de Gasse

Brichanteau

L'Angely, the King's Jester

Rochebaron

Laffemas

Town Crier

Headsman

Two Workmen

Soldiers, Officials, and a crowd of people

Act I

SceneA street in Blois in 1638. Some officers are sitting in the twilight outside a tavern, chatting, smoking, and drinking. They rise up to welcome the Comte de Gasse.

Brichanteau: You come to Blois to join the regiment?
We all condole with you. What is the news
From Paris?

Gasse: The duel has come in again. Richelieu
Is furious.

Rochebaron: That's no news. We duel here,
To pass the time away.

Gasse: But have you heard
Of the incredible, mysterious flight
Of Marion de Lorme?

Brichanteau: We have some news,
Gasse, for you. Marion is here.

Gasse: At Blois?
You jest! The Queen of Beauty? Marion
In a place like this?

Brichanteau: Saverny was attacked
Last night by footpads. They were killing him,
When a man beat them off, and took our friend
Into a house.

Gasse: But Marion de Lorme?

Brichanteau: It was her house. Saverny's rescuer
Was the young man with whom she is in love.

Rochebaron: What is the man like?

Brichanteau: Ask Saverny that.

The Town Crier (arriving with a crowd):
"Ordinance. Louis, by the grace of God,
King of France and Navarre, unto all men,
To whom these presents come, greeting! We will,
Ordain, and rule, henceforward, that all men,
Nobles or commoners, who break the law
By duelling, whether one survive or two,
Shall be hanged by the neck till they are dead.
Such is our good pleasure."

Gasse: Hang us like thieves.

[Two officers of the town fix the edict to the wall, and the Crier and the crowd depart. Saverny enters. The street grows dark.

Saverny: Fair Marion de Lorme has left her house.
I cannot find her.

Gasse: What was the man like?

Saverny: I do not know. On entering the house
I recognised sweet Marion, and began
To speak to her. Before I could turn round
And thank the man to whom I owed my life,
He knocked the candle over. I withdrew,
Seeing I was not wanted. All I know
Is that his name is Didier.

Rochebaron: It smacks
Of vulgar origin. To think a man
With such a name should carry Marion off—
Marion, the queen of beauty and of love!

Saverny: There may be men with greater names, but none
With greater hearts. To leap from Marion's arms,
And fight with footpads for a stranger's life!
The thing's heroic! I owe Didier
A debt that I would pay, if need there was,
With all my blood. I wish he were my friend!

[L'Angely, the King's jester—a mournful-looking creature—comes and sits with the officers. He is followed by a tall, pale, handsome young man. It is Didier.

Didier: The Marquis of Saverny! So the fop
Called himself. Oh, the easy, impudent air
With which he spoke to Marie! And I saved
The creature's life. If I meet him again——

Gasse: Saverny!

Didier: Here's my man.

Gasse: Have you observed
The edict against duelling, on pain
Of hanging?

Saverny: Hanging? Hang a gentleman?
 You jest! That is a punishment for serfs.

Brichanteau: Well, read the edict underneath the lamp.

Saverny (annoyed at Didier for staring at him):
Go, read it for me, pale face!

Didier: I?

Saverny: Yes, you.

Didier (rising): It is an ordinance that punishes
By gibbeting all squabbling noblemen.
Having done all you wanted, may I claim
A slight reward? Will you now fight with me?

Saverny: Certainly. Where?

Didier: Here. Who will lend a sword?

L'Angely: For this wild folly, take a fool's sword, friend,
And in exchange, bequeath to me, for luck,
The bit of rope that hangs you.

Didier (taking his sword): Now, marquis!

Saverny: Sir, at your service.

Didier: Guard!

[As their swords clash, Marion de Lorme appears.

Marion (seeing

Didier fighting): Stop! Help! Help! Help!

[In answer to her cries the town guard arrive.

The Captain of the Guard: Down with your swords! What! Duelling beneath
The edict of the king! You are dead men.

[Didier and Saverny are disarmed and led away.

Marion: What has he done?

[L'Angely points to the edict: she reads it.
Oh, when I called for help
Death came! Is there no way to rescue him?
The king is kind at heart, he will forgive——

L'Angely: But Richelieu will not! He loves red blood,
The scarlet cardinal, he loves red blood!

Marion: You frighten me! Who are you?

L'Angely: The king's fool.

Marion: Ah, Didier! If a woman's feeble hand
Can save you, mine shall do it! [She departs.

L'Angely (picking up the sword he lent to Didier):
Ha! Ha! Ha!
It was not I that played the fool to-night!

Act II

SceneA hall in the castle of Chambord. King Louis XIII., a grey-haired, weak-minded man, is sitting, pale and sorrowful, in a chair of state. L'Angely stands beside him.

The King: Oh, it is miserable to be a king
That lives but does not govern. Richelieu
Is killing all my friends. I sometimes think
He wants their blood to dye his scarlet robes.

L'Angely: He works for France, sire——

The King: Yes, and for himself.
I hate him. Never did a king of France
Govern with so tyrannical a hand
As he now does. A single word from me
And all his pomp and splendour, all his power,
Would vanish. But I cannot say the word;
He will not let me. Come, amuse me, fool!

L'Angely: Is not life, sire, a thing of bitterness?

The King: It is. Man is a shadow.

L'Angely: And a king
The miserablest creature on this earth.

The King: It gives me pleasure when you speak like that.
I wish that I were dead. In all the world
You are the only man I ever found
Worth listening to. I often wonder why
You care to live. What are you? A poor fool—
A puppet that I jerk to make me laugh.

L'Angely: I live on out of curiosity.
The puppet of the king, I sit and watch
The antics of the puppet of the priest!

The King: Yes, that is what I am. You speak the truth.
Could Satan not become a cardinal,
And take possession of my very soul?

L'Angely: I think that's what has happened.

The King: He loves blood,
The cardinal! It was the Huguenots
Yesterday that he wanted to behead,
And now it is the duellists. Blood! Blood!
He cannot live unless he lives in blood.

[L'Angely makes a sign. Marion de Lorme and the Marquis de Nangis enter.

Marion: Pardon!

The King: For whom?

Marion: Didier.

Nangis: And the Marquis of Saverny.
They are two boys of twenty years of age—
Two children—they were quarrelling, when some spies
Posted by Richelieu ...

Marion: Pardon them, my king!
You will have pity on them. Two young boys,
Caught in a boyish quarrel! No blood shed.
You will not kill my Didier for that!
You will not! Oh, you will not!

The King (wiping the tears from his eyes): Richelieu
Has ordered that all duellists be hanged.
You make my head ache. Go. Leave me!
It must be so, for he has ordered it.

[L'Angely signs to Marion to hide herself in the dark hall. She does so. Nangis goes out.

The King (yawning): I wish they would not come and worry me.
Amuse me, L'Angely, for I am sad.
 Can you not talk to me of death again?
That is a pleasant subject. Your gay talk
Alone enables me to bear with life.

L'Angely: Sire, I have come to say farewell to you.

The King: Farewell? You cannot leave me! Only death
Can end your service to a king.

L'Angely: 'Tis death
That ends it. You condemn me to be hanged,
Since you refuse to pardon those two boys.
For it was I who made them fight. I lent
My sword to Didier.

The King (sadly): Oh, my poor fool!
So they will break your neck as well! Farewell!
Life will be dull without you. When you die,
L'Angely, come and tell me how it feels,
If you can, as some dead men do return
In ghostly form to earth.

L'Angely (to himself): A pleasant task!

The King: No! It would frighten me if you came back.
You must not die. L'Angely, do you think
That I could master Richelieu, if I wished?

L'Angely: Try!

The King: Some paper!

[L'Angely gives him some; he hurriedly scrawls a few words, and hands the writing to the fool.

I have pardoned all of you.

L'Angely (running to Marion): Here is the pardon.
Thank the king for it.

The King (as Marion throws herself at his feet):
I must not! Give the paper back to me!
Richelieu will be angry.

Marion (thrusting the pardon in her bosom): You must tear
My heart out ere you take it from me, sire!

The King (lowering his eyes, dazzled by her beauty):
Are you a sorceress? You frighten me!
 Keep it and go!

Marion (as she departs): My Didier is saved!

The King: At last I have shown Cardinal Richelieu
That I am King of France—

L'Angely: Who in a fright
Made a mistake, and once did what was right!

Act III

SceneA field by the castle of Beaugenoy. A great gap has been made in the outer wall, through which looms the castle-keep. Two workmen are covering the gap with a vast black cloth.

A Workman: If they would hang the two young gentlemen
Outside the wall, the cardinal could see
The execution without breaking down
The ramparts in this way.

His Mate: Could he not come
Through the great gate?

A Workman: What! In a litter borne
By four-and twenty men? No! Richelieu
Travels in greater state than any king.
He enters, like a conqueror, through the breach
Made in the castles of our noblemen.
He means to kill them all, they say.

His Mate: And now
He comes in his great litter through this wall,
To see these poor boys hanged? What cruelty!

A Workman: Now come and see the gallows we have built.

[As they depart, Marion arrives at the castle gate. She knocks, but before the door opens, Laffemas, Richelieu's agent, gallops up.

Marion: An order from the king.

The Gatekeeper: You cannot pass.

Laffemas: An order from the cardinal.

The Gatekeeper: Pass in.

Marion: I have a pardon for two prisoners!

Laffemas: And I the document revoking it!
The cardinal is coming here to-night
To see the execution. It is fixed
For nine o'clock.

Marion: Then there is no more hope!
Oh, God! Oh, God! My Didier must die!
Nothing can save him!

Laffemas: You can, Marion.
Yes, you can still! I will let Didier escape
If, Marion, you will——

Marion: No!

Laffemas: Then he dies!

Marion: And if he lives, I lose him. (A long silence.)
He shall live.

[She goes into the castle with Laffemas. Didier and Saverny appear, guarded by the jailer and his men. It is now night.

The Jailer (in a whisper to Saverny): You can
escape. The Marquis of Nangis
Has made all preparations for the flight.

Saverny: For both of us?

The Jailer: No; only you. And that
May cost me my own life.

Saverny: Well, save my friend.

The Jailer: I cannot.

Saverny: Then I must remain with him.
(To Didier) They will hang us, friend, to-night.


Didier: Are you sure,
Saverny, she is Marion de Lorme?
On your honour, are you sure?

Saverny: Yes, I am.
I cannot understand you, Didier.
Are you not proud to think that you have made
 So great a conquest?

Didier: And I thought she was
As innocent as she was beautiful!

Saverny: She loves you. You should be content with that.
You will not die while Marion de Lorme
Lives. And I hope that she will not forget
I am your friend, but come and save me, too.

[It grows darker Saverny falls asleep. Marion comes out of the gate carrying a bundle, and accompanied by Didier.

Marion: Put on these clothes. Richelieu has arrived;
Can you not hear the guns announcing him?

Didier: Raise your eyes! Raise your eyes, and look at me!
What sort of man, think you, am I? A fool,
Or libertine?

Marion (trembling, as she fixes her eyes passionately
on his
): I love you Didier,
More than my life. Your eyes are terrible.
What have I done? Am I not your Marie?

Didier: Marie? Or Marion de Lorme?

Marion: Didier,
Forgive me! I—I—meant to tell you all.
I feared to lose you if you learnt my name.
You had redeemed me by your love. I longed
To raise all memories of my former self,
And live a new life with you, Didier.
For, oh, I love you, and I love you still,
Deeply and truly! Didier, be kind,
Or you will kill me!

Didier: How have you obtained
This favour for me? Why is Laffemas
Risking his neck by letting me escape?

Marion: Not now! I cannot tell you now!
Fly! Fly!
Hark, they are coming! Do not stop to speak.
Save yourself!

Didier: No; I have no wish to live!
Thank God, here is the headsman!

[A Headsman, carrying his axe, appears with a crowd of soldiers, officials, and Saverny.

Marion (falling to the earth): Didier!

Saverny: What a shame
To rob me of my sleep!

The Headsman (grimly): The time has come
To put you both to bed.

Saverny (gaily): A headsman! Good!
I like the axe much better than the rope.

Didier (embracing him): Good-bye, my friend!

Marion (clinging to him): And me! Didier, me!
Will you not say good-bye to me?

Didier (wildly, as the soldiers drag him off): No! No!
My heart is breaking! Oh, Marie, Marie!
I love you. I was wrong!

Marion: You pardon me?

Didier: I ask your pardon. Think of me sometimes.
Good-bye, my darling. [He is dragged behind the wall.

An Official (catching Marion in his arms as she falls):
All hope is not lost.
Look, here is Richelieu! Go and plead with him.

[The castle guns are fired. The cloth, hiding the great breach in the wall, drops. The Cardinal comes in his gigantic scarlet litter, borne by twenty-four footguards. Scarlet curtains conceal him from the shouting mob.

Marion (dragging herself on her knees to the litter):
In the name of God, oh, my Lord Cardinal,
Pardon these two poor boys!

A Voice (from the litter): No pardon!

[The litter passes on, and the crowd surges through the wall after it. Marion is left alone.